The tsunami that hit Japan on Friday, March 11, rendered phones and television useless for getting and spreading information.
Those in Japan, who still had mobile phone service, turned to microblogging on their phones. And those who had phones and television, made greater use of Twitter, Mixi, Facebook and other social networks where microblogging thrives.
Microblogging is a the quick publishing of messages via SMS, Twitter, social check-ins, status updates on Facebook or any other means of posting brief messages onto a network.
Worldwide, Twitter users rushed to their accounts to find and publish information. Here a view of the traffic using a Google Realtime search for 'tsunami' http://bit.ly/dR0JrQ
Microblogging activity is critical during crisis a because people with mobile service and apps can post updates, pics and video. When phone lines go down, the Internet and mobile phone services tend to stay online - mostly because the infrastructure is decentralized and nodal.
Microblog posts during a natural disaster can let friends and family know if a loved one is surviving.
For example, during the earthquake in New Zealand last month, those trapped in crumbled buildings send SMS messages and tweets to give the location and their status, http://bit.ly/hQSz2X
This CBSNews piece makes two good points about the growth of microblogging in Japan, http://bit.ly/fwHfmM. First, 17% of Japanese are on Twitter. Second, the Japanese language is based upon characters. That lends itself to microblogging because they can convey more in a message, even if they can only use 140 characters. For example, 'information' is two characters in Japanse.
But the microblogging isn't limited to everyday people. Journalists and reporters, who depend upon phones, satellite transmissions and PCs to relay their stories, are also turning to microblogging to push out their materials. The Houston Chronicle is tracking breaking news on microblogs, like Twitter, YouTube, etc., http://blogs.chron.com/newswatch/2011/03/pacific_tsunami_on_twitter.html.
Microblogging empowers everyday people to become reporters. See http://www.youtube.com/citizentube where people who witness the tsunami and its aftermath are updating the site with videos and photos - eyewitness accounts.
An organized extension of microblogging is Storyful.com, http://www.storyful.com/, where the site collects and makes news stories from material on social networks.
http://twitter.com/#!/TomokoHosaka - "@TomokoHosaka Tokyo, JAPAN 東京 Journalizing Japan for The Associated Press - biz, econ, tech, politics, culture."
http://twitter.com/#!/JarrodLentz - "@JarrodLentz Shin Urayasu, Japan
I am an American performer at Tokyo Disney. Moved here on March 3rd 2011. I'm tweeting my experience of the Japan earthquake and the aftermath." and his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/jarrodocity